I doubt I'm about to say anything that you can't find thousands of other people saying on the internet this week...and, I doubt that you have much doubt about my views of Halloween if you've been reading my blog for more than a few days...and, I am certainly NOT posting this in an attempt to get a theological discussion going about Halloween...nor am I trying to persuade you to change any opinions about this or any other holiday...trust me, I know that if you believe that Halloween is the devil, there ain't nobody going to be changing your convictions anytime soon.
But, I’m sharing this with you because I have had a few people ask me why we celebrate Halloween.
First, let me share with you my history with Halloween. When I was very young, my parents would take my sisters and I out every year trick or treating (totting). I remember Halloween as lots of fun...my mom would even make our costumes (before the days of Wal-Mart). One year, I was Kermit the frog...another year, all three of us were the pink panther [those were some HOT (not sexy hot, but sweaty/stinky hot) costumes...].
The biggest thing I remember about those early years of totting (beyond the requisite candy-trading with my sisters at the end of the bountiful evening) was a very real fear of dying from eating a poisoned or razor blade embedded piece of candy...I don't know why my parents thought it was OK to warn me about such things... So, from early on, I was taught that Halloween was not all fun and games.
When I was about 7, my parents made the decision to stop allowing us to participate in traditional Halloween festivities...namely the evil and dangerous totting. I'm guessing that this decision had as much to do with the fact that my father was a pastor of some “convicted” people as it had to do with my parents’ own convictions, but regardless, pink panther was long gone.
In it's place, we began having the wonderful Baptist (although I hear it's not contained to one denomination) alternative called, "Harvest Party". If you've never been to a harvest party, think of it as the alternative prom...the one that all the lame people who didn't want to have any fun went to. I'm not saying our harvest parties weren't any fun...I have some good memories of all of the Bible characters I dressed up as and all of the sword drills I won for candy. But, Halloween for us was definitely not the same as Halloween for the rest of the known world.
Fast forward to present day. Harvest Parties are long gone at our church. I haven't done a sword drill in years. In a few days, my dad is going to be grilling hundreds of hotdogs for a few thousand unchurched guests (about 500 families) who come through NHC's TRUNKorTREAT. My mom is going to be trying to up her costume from last year (see pics below). I have been plotting my own costume since last spring. About 80% of our church is going to be volunteering to pass out candy, man our giant inflatable games, serve food and drinks, etc.
At some point, my parents finally saw the light...and, I got past my deadly fears as well.
All that to say, here's what we believe about Halloween:
> There is nothing evil about October 31 in and of itself. Nor is their necessarily anything evil about dressing up, buying candy, passing out candy, receiving candy, eating candy, hanging out with friends, carving a pumpkin, etc.
> There are people in the past and in the present who choose to use October 31 as a day for evil. Vandalism, substance abuse, sexual "fun" (have you seen some of the costumes these days?), imitation of blood and violence have all, among certain groups, become closely associated with Halloween.
> There are also people who choose to use October 31 for neutral reasons…hanging out with friends, eating candy, staying home to watch the World Series, etc.
> There are some people who choose to isolate and insulate themselves from everything related to Halloween, fearing the possible evils and harm that could come their way if they were to participate in the day.
> And, there are people who choose to use October 31 for God-centered purposes.
We choose to use Halloween as an opportunity to reach out to our community and show them, not that there is an alternative to Halloween, but that there is an alternative to life. While we do stay away from using witches and ghosts and axe murderers in our Halloween celebration, we don't put Halloween or those who celebrate it differently than us down in any way. Instead, we invite people to come and celebrate October 31 with us (even if they dress up as a witch), hoping that they'll see and hear about our alternative way of life.
I realize that a lot of people disagree with how we view Halloween, and that's OK with us...most of those people are not who we are trying to reach. In fact the cool thing about ToT is that, because so many other churches/Christians disagree with our view about October 31, we almost exclusively attract unchurched people in our community with this event. I also understand that Halloween is celebrated very differently in other cultures (even in the states), which makes what we do a little easier. We see very little of the violence and vandalism that many other cities and towns deal with on October 31...we see less neighborhood totting as well. TRUNKorTREAT is actually not just another stop for our community on October 31, it has become the place to be...this year we're expecting upwards of 2500 people.